The NHS in Bedford is gearing up for the Christmas rush.
A&E services at Bedford Hospital saw their busiest day of the year on Sunday and there are fears that it can only get busier during the Christmas and New Year break.
A range of initiatives have been set up to ensure safe, high quality, appropriate urgent care services are available for everyone who needs them – and that A&E has the capacity to deal with any major accidents emergencies.
eLocal people are being encouraged to take a pledge to Choose Well over winter.
This could be as simple as wrapping up warm and wearing sensible shoes when it’s icy.
But it also means thinking about going to the GP walk-in clinical or local pharmacy (chemist) rather than taking a trip to A&E at Bedford Hospital.
A group of GPs and nurses are working alongside A&E providing a rapid assessment service for people coming into the unit and ensuring they are streamed to the correct NHS service for them, which might not be A&E.
Extra nurses have been recruited by the hospital to speed up hospital discharge processes and get more people back home for Christmas.
There is also health coaching where trained nurses are providing intense telephone support for people with long-term conditions, such as respiratory or heart disease, to help them manage their condition.
This service has been made available to a carefully selected group of patients based on their clinical need.
A senior paramedic is working seven days a week at Bedford Hospital to ensure a smooth 15-minute turnaround of ambulances and so increasing the number of emergency calls the service can answer.
There are also lots of alternatives to A&E to consider.
These include your family doctor (a GP is available 24 hours a day), local pharmacy (some community pharmacies are open on Bank Holidays too) and walk-in clinics.
And there are plenty of ways to look after yourself over the holiday by having a well-stocked first aid kit.
Stuart Lloyd, Emergency Consultant at Bedford Hospital said: “A&E departments are here for people with life-threatening and emergency conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and serious accidents.
“Over the last couple of months our A&E department has been one of the top 10 performing in the country; however our staff have been working flat out to achieve this and we anticipate that it will get even busier over the Christmas period.
“It is vital that we continue to provide high quality care to those who really need it, so we are asking people to think carefully, before they come here, as to whether A&E is really the best place for their condition.”